- Paul Anthony Jones
Some words are so beautiful they stop you in your tracks. Case in point, one of this week’s most popular HH words, the adjective verdazurine—describing anything sea-green in colour.
First recorded in English in the late 1600s, verdazurine probably has its direct origins in either one of its Italian, verdazzurro, or French, verd d’azur, equivalents, both of which in turn have their origins in Latin.
That initial “verd–” derives via the Latin viridis, and not only shares its origins with the words for “green” in a number of European languages (e.g. French, verte), but is the root of a number of similarly green-tinged English words, like verdant, verdure, and verdigris.
That final “–azurine” is an extension of azure, which has been used to refer to a rich blue colour (and, originally, the deep blue lapis lazuli gemstone) since the fourteenth century in English. Derived via French from medieval Latin, azure is another example of that most curious of linguistic phenomenon, rebracketing: the Latin name for the lapis lazuli stone at the time, lazur, was mistakenly identified as a French word, “l’azur,” and so the initial L was abandoned because it was thought to be nothing more than the definite article.
Put those two together and—with a little help from Italian or French—you have a word for the colour of the sea that literally means “green-blue”. And you also have one of the most beautiful words we’ve ever tweeted here at HH.